It's all a matter of your perspective. "The Cubs?" said Montreal Manager Gene Mauch. "At this time in 1969 they looked like a superteam. Now they're a lot older and they still haven't won. Us? Mostly we are the same names, but our young ones are improving and our veterans are playing like they can."
While everyone else waits for them to fade—as has been their wont—the Cubs rolled merrily on, winning six of eight and enlarging their divisional lead to seven games. At the moment the biggest problem in Chicago appears to be the lack of lights at Wrigley Field. Just think, should the Cubs make it to the World Series, they will be the home team in the Tuesday-Wednesday-Thursday set of games. NBC has already decreed that these games will be played at night. And what television decrees, it gets. Oh well, it's still early.
The hitting that carried Montreal to seven straight victories and second place has flickered away like the northern lights. So has second place. On Saturday Pittsburgh handed the Expos their third straight loss, 5-1. For Montreal it was the eighth defeat in 10 games and the 12th in 17. This collapse opened second place to St. Louis, which had finally struggled back to the .500 level but then spun its wheels with a 4-4 week. The Cardinals finished June with an 18-12 record. What St. Louis ought to do is stay away from Pennsylvania clubs: the Cards are 1-6 against Pittsburgh, 4-6 against Philadelphia. At one point the Cardinals, combined record against the two Pennsylvania teams was 1-11.
Finally getting the pitching they had a year ago, the Pirates won five of eight and arose from last place to within 2½ games of second. Philadelphia is hoping Steve Carlton can regain his once-magic touch. While waiting, the Phillies won five of nine. With more talent on the disabled list than on the field, the Mets plunged into the basement. What New York needs is another star in the East.
CHI 46-32 ST. L 37-37 MONT 34-37
PITT 34-38 PHIL 35-40 NY 32-39
"It's too early to claim the pennant, "said Walter Alston, who has his Los Angeles Dodgers cruising out front by 6½ games, "but I think the league has found out that our young guys don't quit." Since April, the Dodgers have come from behind to win 23 games, and they apparently don't care if it takes a few extra innings. Last Friday night Bill Russell hit a bases-loaded single in the 12th inning to beat Atlanta 12-9. The following night Lee Lacy singled in the 13th to beat the Reds 8-7. The two victories gave the Dodgers a 6-1 mark for the week.
The Giants finished June with a 3-4 week and with Juan Marichal pitching in relief. With at least two players headed for the All-Star Game, San Francisco has talent enough to fill out a couple of rosters, but somehow each June the Giants become the Titanic and everybody else plays iceberg.
When you are 11 games back there is no rest for the wounded, and the desperate Reds are hoping that even half a Johnny Bench can help. Bench has a badly pulled calf muscle but is playing with his left leg taped from knee to foot and with a special shoe lift to relieve some of the pressure. "It needs three complete weeks of rest," Bench said. "But I have to play. We need to win." Bench played, but last week the Reds won only two while losing six.
Like everyone else, Houston lost ground to the Dodgers, but the Astros held onto third by winning four of eight. Atlanta, with Henry Aaron hitting No. 693, won four of seven, but the Braves are still 12 victories away from .500 ball. "Our players have got to concentrate more," said Manager Eddie Mathews. The Padres concentrated on losing four of six.
LA 51-27 SF 45-34 HOUS 43-36
CIN 39-37 ATL 33-45 SD 25-52
If there is an oil shortage in the U.S., you can't prove it by Gaylord Perry, or so the New York Yankees contended. After losing to Perry in Cleveland, the division leaders charged that the Indians' ace goes to his left armpit more than he does to the rosin bag and that the ball then does unnatural tricks, like dropping 10 to 14 inches just as it reaches the plate. The Yankees' Bobby Murcer even went so far as to say that AL President Joe Cronin and Commissioner Bowie Kuhn were "gutless" for not enforcing the rules. That cost Murcer $250. "And in the future," said Kuhn, "be more discreet." Last Friday night in Yankee Stadium Perry again served up whatever it is he throws. This time Roy White hit two home runs and Murcer one, and the Yankees won 7-2. "I hit a hanging greaseball," Murcer said—discreetly. New York won five, against three losses for the week.
Rival catchers kept snapping their fingers in the face of Baltimore's Paul Blair, who underwent hypnotic treatment. He, in turn, snapped off 10 hits in 29 times at bat as the Birds won five games in a row to move past Milwaukee into second place.
After a spell of prosperity, the Brewers staggered, winning only one of six. Three losses were to the Tigers, who are holding steady in fifth place. Boston, mired by rain, got in five games and won three of them. If there is any oil in Cleveland, it's on a slide. The Indians dropped five of seven.
NY 43-33 BALT 37-31 MIL 37-36
BOST 35-35 DET 37-38 CLEV 27-48
In a division where it seems a base on balls can drop you from first to fifth, Oakland was grumbling and winning, and the harried White Sox were losing Dick Allen, four games and first place. Allen's injury came in a collision with California's burly Mike Epstein that would have floored most players. Not Allen. Moments later, on a grounder hit to his right, Allen sprinted 50 feet, gloved the ball and threw out the runner—all on a leg that X rays later showed to have two hairline fractures. Without a trace of a limp, Allen walked to the dugout. "I won't be out long," he told Manager Chuck Tanner. The White Sox took him at his word: he was placed only on a 15-day disabled list.
"This team gets a lot of press about griping and bickering," said Oakland Coach Jerry Adair, "but while they talk, they also play ball." While talking, the A's won five of eight and moved into first place, half a game in front of Minnesota (5-3 and up from fourth to second place) and a full game up on Chicago. "I still think the White Sox are the team to beat," said Reggie Jackson after hitting two home runs off faltering Wilbur Wood (six straight defeats) and powering the A's over Chicago 3-2 Saturday afternoon.
The Royals are unhappy because they do not have a left-handed relief pitcher, but last week it didn't matter. The team's long suit, defense, fell apart and Kansas City found itself in a five-game losing streak. "I can't go out and field and throw the ball for them," growled Manager Jack McKeon. Texas got a big-victory and a big crowd (35,698) out of 18-year-old pitcher David Clyde (page 16), but lost six of nine other games to fall out of the cellar into a mine shaft.
OAK 42-35 MINN 39-33 CHI 38-33
CAL 39-35 KC 42-38 TEX 25-46